How to sell B2B (Part 1)

A few months ago we invited Armand Farrokh to teach us how early-stage startups can predictably win deals at our event Getting to $3M in ARR

I rewatched the replay and I’m convinced that Armand is a sales wizard. 

  • At Carta, he went from being the top rep to Director of Sales in under 2 years, leading the transformation of the sales organization from inbound to outbound as Carta scaled beyond $100M ARR.
  • After his work at Carta, Armand took Pave's ARR from $100k to $10M+.
  • ​These days Armand is the founder of 30 Minutes to President’s Club, a revenue-focused media platform that shares hyper-actionable sales tactics. ​Among other things, 30MPC hosts the #1 sales podcast in the world.

My favorite part of his talk was when Armand shared his two strategies for closing B2B deals. 

  1. Bottom-up champion selling 
  2. Top down yo-yo selling

I wrote a full guide about strategy #1 below (so keep reading). I’ll explain strategy #2 in the next issue of TFP. 

One last note before we start: Even if you’re not selling B2B, you’re likely selling something to someone. So you’re going to learn something useful from this piece, I promise you that. 

Bottom-up champion selling

If you don’t have a direct relationship with a high-level executive (which is most of the time), you’ll need to implement the bottom-up champion selling strategy. This means selling to someone at the lower levels of management and working your way up to the executive level.

To start, you need to first figure out who needs to sign off on a purchase. Maybe it’s the VP of HR, the VP of Finance, and the CEO. Or maybe it’s just the VP of HR. 

Every business is unique, so do your research to discover who is involved in the sales process and graph them on a mind-map. Here’s what Armand’s visual looked like when he was selling compensation management software at Pave. 

While the titles in the boxes may be different from yours, Armand’s framework for bottom-up champion selling will be consistent regardless of what business you’re selling to. Here are the four steps. 

  1. Find a champion
  2. Win their peers
  3. Win power
  4. Make sure it works

Let’s use the visual and break down each part of the framework to understand how Armand closed so many deals.

Step 1: Find a champion

A champion is someone on the team you’re selling to who can advocate for you and your product to the rest of the team. 

These champions are typically a “Head of…” or “Director” type of person who runs some domain or function that would own the tool that you have. 

  • At Pave - selling compensation management software - they targeted the Head of People Operations.
  • At 30 MPC - selling sponsorships - they targeted the Head of Content or Head of Demand Generation.
  • At Carta - selling equity management software - they targeted controllers at bigger companies because they oversee the accounting department. 

You need to figure out your first champion owner. This is your “at the line” starting point. 

Armand would do a killer discovery call with that champion. Or maybe give a 60-minute demo. The goal is to validate that the prospective client has a real problem and that your product can help them solve it. Once they see the value, this person will “champion” your business to their team.  

Step 2: Win their peers

After you have a champion, you need to figure out who sits laterally to that person. These are people who influence the decision-making process. 

At Pave, Armand started with the first champion, Head of People Ops. And then he threaded across the organization to other department leads to get their buy-in. You do this by having more meetings with these department leads and converting them to be champions, too. 

The goal is to work your way across the line and eventually up the account. 

Step 3: Win power

To make progress upwards, take a peek at one of Armand’s typical sales conversations.

Armand: “Katie, I’m so glad you’re on board. We also have Bill on board. How are you feeling about how things are going?”

Katie: “Things are going so well. Your tool seems like a promising solution.” 

Armand: “I’ve seen a lot of other people and organizations at your stage who’ve bought Pave before and I’ve seen momentum like this get blown up. And I think there’s an excellent use case with you. Could I recommend how we might partner in terms of getting this thing done together?”

Katie: “Of course.”

Armand: “9 times out of 10, we’re talking about stuff around compensation. Jane, your CFO, is going to want to know what’s going on here. How can I partner with you to encapsulate all the things that Bill and you said that we could solve and make this really real for Jane? Is there a way we could get 30 minutes on her calendar so we can put all this stuff together and help you solve some of the problems that you mentioned earlier?”

Since you’ve taken the time to convert people into champions, this tidal wave of momentum makes it easier to land a meeting with an executive. Once Armand meets with the CFO, he continues…

Armand: “Hey, Mr. / Mrs. CFO, this is what I actually need in terms of resourcing to get this done. I'm going to go and meet with your technical teams, but are you okay with me doing all this technical validation with my engineers and your engineers?”

CFO: “Of course.”

Step 4: Make sure it works

There are going to be many times when a champion or a department lead insists that you meet with their technical goons first. Avoid this at all costs. 

Deals go to die early in the technical validations or they turn cold and progress super slowly. We can’t let these issues slow down our momentum. That’s why Armand recommends that you start with a champion, win their peers, and go up to win power at the CFO level. Once you have all that momentum, the technical teams won’t be able to sway the decision.

During the calls with your champion and their peers, make it clear that the goal of those calls is NOT to do technical validation. If they insist, Armand likes to respond with,

“I will set up a separate 1:1 call with your technical goon and my sales engineer separately. To manage the technicalities, the integrations, the security, the POC, the sandbox, etc. But this call is to make sure that you feel like we are solving a business priority for your company.”

After you’ve received buy-in from people “at the line” and “above the line,” then you can meet with the technical teams to complete step 4 of this framework: ensure that everything works. 

Give me a quick recap

Armand’s four-part framework to sell from the bottom up is simple.

  1. Find a champion
  2. Win their peers
  3. Win power
  4. Make sure it works

But what if you get an introduction directly to the executive? Then we execute the top down yo-yo strategy, which we’ll cover in Part 2 in the next issue of TFP.